September 11th

Behind The News
September 12, 2008 12:59:38 PM PDT
It's so strange writing the date Sept. 11. One of those days-that-will-live-in-infamy. For those with a family member or friend killed at Ground Zero, the day opens wounds that will never completely scar over. For the rest of us, it's a time to reflect and remember.

Life goes on, yes. But there's no "getting over" the grief, or closure (I hate that word). And there shouldn't be. Finding the healthy balance between grieving and living is the goal for all of us.

Last year on this day, I closed on a home. And on a part of the property, there is some dirt that, I'm told, came from the World Trade Center. I find all that comforting.

I watched the ceremony this morning, as Liz Cho and I anchored our coverage. I cry easily when I hear a little girl say she misses her dad, or a mother reading the name of her son.

For those who covered the attacks, the pain remains. (Click HERE to see our remembrances.)

This morning, as we talked on air to Nina Pineda, who was at Ground Zero, I mentioned that she was there seven years ago this morning. It's a searing image for me - Nina and Lauren Glassberg, colleagues and good friends, crouching behind a car as the towers collapsed and walls of dust covered them.

She told Liz and me on the air, with the pit behind her, that she still can't go to the pit, can't bring herself to look at it. It's just too painful.

So many of my memories are tied to our reporters, and how they covered the story. You know them as incredibly talented journalists and storytellers; but on that day they became closer family members, because they rushed into harm's way to cover this tragedy, breathing the toxic clouds in the process.

I remember Joe Torres heading there, and because of cell phone outages, we were unable to contact him. His wife called here, several times, wondering how he was. We simply didn't know. And neither did she. Finally, Joe called in -- and I remember saying on the air, to his wife, that we had heard from Joe and he wanted her and their kids to know that he was all right.

Perhaps the most haunting part of that day were the phone calls from people in the two towers. They called us, describing what was happening as the flames crept higher and hotter.

Many never made it out.

At some point in the day we turned a corner in the coverage. Stacey Sager told us, on air, that she had discovered these make-shift bulletin boards, where people were plastering "missing" posters of their friends and family members. The fliers, with pictures and descriptions of the missing -- desperate public pleas to find people who, it became so clear so soon, would never be found.

Stacey was there as the handful of posters became dozens, then scores, then hundreds.

There are those who wonder why we cover this event -- all the TV stations -- every year. I suspect there will come a time when the ceremony will appear on the web instead on television. But that day is clearly not here yet.

It's interesting to see people dip in and out of the coverage -- pausing to watch, to shed a tear, to listen -- and then getting on with their daily routine. Tens of thousands of people -- I believe it will exceed 100,000 -- logged on to our website to view our coverage.

There's an interesting concurrent storyline today to the Sept. 11 memorial. Barack Obama and John McCain -- suspending all "negative" ads for the day (can we make it for the rest of the election, gentlemen?) and appearing, together, at Ground Zero this afternoon.

The question-- can this solemn day give the two candidates a chance to reboot their campaigns, which, many believe, have devolved a bit this past week. Oh, yes, I know, the pundits say the McCain campaign has surged a bit. But that spin is just to keep audiences tuning in to the non-stop cable TV coverage.

The hard truth is that this once-high-minded election process has sunk to levels which are uninspiring and are not addressing the tough realities of most Americans' daily lives.

Perhaps, just maybe, this timeout today from the snarking and sniping will allow these two otherwise honorable men to get back on track. We can only hope.

We'll have the latest from Ground Zero, and Obama and McCain, who are speaking at a forum at Columbia University. Our political reporter Dave Evans has our story, at 11.

And Jeff Pegues is covering Charlie Gibson's exclusive interview with Sarah Palin tonight. Charlie is in Alaska; he has three interview sessions with the Governor - - two today and a longer one tomorrow. And you'll have ample opportunities to see the interviews with the woman who has quickly turned the Presidential race on its ear. ABC News is airing various parts of the interview tonight - on World News and later on Nightline. And then three platforms on Friday will air parts of it - Good Morning America, World News and the entire hour of 20/20.

At this writing, I've no idea what Palin's said. We'll have excerpts and a look at what she's doing to the campaigns, tonight at 11.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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